“O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” ~ Philips Brooks
“O Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are but a small Judean village, yet you will be the birthplace of my King who is alive from everlasting ages past!” Micah 5:2 (TLB)
Micah 5:2 (TLB)
As we approach this special season of Christmas to pause and celebrate the greatest Gift ever given to mankind, Jesus Christ and His birth, I thought it needful to reflect on some of the sweet and sacred songs we sing, that have characterized the spirit of the season and made it a very special and memorable one – Christmas carols.
Originally, a “Christmas carol” referred to a piece of vocal music in carol (hymn) form whose lyrics center on the theme of Christmas or the Christmas season. Many traditional Christmas carols focus on the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus. We will, in the coming days, look at some of these carols, the story behind them, and learn some lessons from their messages.
Let us begin with this heartwarming carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” This religious carol, elucidating the birth of Christ, was inspired by the touching and life-changing experience of a traveling man in the Holy Lands on one Christmas Eve. This pilgrim, Phillip Brooks, was a distinguished man of faith and intellect. A Doctor of Divinity and a Boston-born Episcopalian preacher, he was a slavery abolitionist and advocated against it during the American Civil war.
In 1865, Brooks rode on horseback from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, where he participated in the Church of the Nativity’s five-hour long Christmas Eve celebration, complete with hymns. Returning home, this experience proved so profound that he channeled it into the song sung in churches to this day. Its first public performance was held three years later, performed by the children’s choir of his church on December 27.
The song speaks of this little town upon whom the expectation of all mankind was. Bethlehem was going to experience a convergence of angelic activities and the visits of kings, because of the birth of the KING of kings. An obscure community would forever be placed on the map of humanity, because of God’s light and favor that shone upon it. It was a little town, but God chose to make it His doorway into human life. He did something ‘big’ in Bethlehem…something that will make generations to remember it fondly.
This is what happens when our hearts are open to allow Jesus be born in us. God brings meaning into our lives and takes us from obscurity into notoriety. People may have given you up as insignificant or as one with nothing to contribute; you may have even been written off by family members, but the Christ who entered Bethlehem and put it on the world’s map, can enter your life and give it new meaning.
See the full lyrics of this carol HERE
You can watch a video of the carol HERE.
Father, may Your light shine upon every dark area of my life in this Christmas season and beyond in Jesus’ name.